One of the books I read recently is the classic, Propaganda, by Edward Bernays. I don’t recall what post or website I was on that referred to it but I thought it worth the read. I wanted to explore the concept of liberty and how manipulation of information by the elite could be weaved into my next book (Olduvai 2: Exodus).
As the writeup on Amazon states about Bernays and his book: “A seminal and controversial figure in the history of political thought and public relations, Edward Bernays (1891–1995), pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion, which he famously dubbed “engineering of consent.” During World War I, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda apparatus that was mobilized to package, advertise and sell the war to the American people as one that would “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” The CPI would become the blueprint in which marketing strategies for future wars would be based upon. Bernays applied the techniques he had learned in the CPI and, incorporating some of the ideas of Walter Lipmann, became an outspoken proponent of propaganda as a tool for democratic and corporate manipulation of the population. His 1928 bombshell Propaganda lays out his eerily prescient vision for using propaganda to regiment the collective mind in a variety of areas, including government, politics, art, science and education. To read this book today is to frightfully comprehend what our contemporary institutions of government and business have become in regards to organized manipulation of the masses.”
On the advice of my marketing consultant for Olduvai, I have been more active in attempting to develop an ‘online personality and following.’ One of the ways I have been doing this is to comment on various news articles or opinion pieces that tie in to my book’s major themes (i.e. geopolitics, economy, energy, environment, liberty, etc.) via online comment sections of a limited number of media and theme-related websites, using my book cover as my avatar and adding my website address as a ‘signature’ at the bottom. It has proven to be remarkably effective in attracting readers to my website.
What I have noted is that a relatively small portion of my comments do not get past the ‘moderators’ at the two websites where I have done most of my posting, The Huffington Post: Canada (HPC) and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
When you sign up to participate in such online discussions, your comments must meet certain criteria (CBC’s policy here; HPC’s here). Some of the criteria are fairly specific and not really open to much debate as to what is acceptable and what is not. For example, you may add up to three external links to your post or use French if responding on Radio Canada’s site. Other criteria are open to some disagreement over what is acceptable and what is not. Comments may not be threatening, harrassing, or sexually explicit. Some, however, are open to such broad interpretation that almost any comment could be deemed to be in violation. You may not make repetitive comments, for example. But what defines repetitive? If you interpret the world through a particular lens, for example Christainity, you will very likely bring the concept of God or Christ into your comments. Or, as I tend to do now, your global schema may consider the concepts of exponential growth and energy depletion as fundamental to how you view events. Regardless, my point is that the latitude that is given to moderators allows for personal biases and interpretations to direct the online discussion of many of these websites. I have found that CBC ‘disables’ my comment but continues to show it via my personal profile. The Huffington Post simply ‘loses’ it in the internet ether somewhere, no online record of the comment is visible.
There appears to be at least a couple of different methods used by these corporations to steer conversations. The comment can be entirely ‘disallowed’ or it can be held in queue for an extended period of time while others get through and then are posted far down the list, buried several pages in.
I also believe that some commentators are ‘blacklisted’ in the sense that their comments are not posted automatically but held up so that they may be moderated/censored more assiduously. I am certain that I am one of those whose comments have been flagged for greater scrutiny. I have sent communcation to both websites enquiring as to the process that is used, yet I have received no response to date (several weeks now).
The HPC’s flagging is quite interesting/humourous. For virtually every one of my posts, I get the message “Due to the potentially sensitive nature of this article, your comment may take longer to appear publicly.” It does not matter what the topic of the article is; apparently all articles have a ‘potentially sensitive nature’, even those in the sports section. Today (Jan. 30/14), I have been quite frustrated at not being able to challenge an article penned by Conrad Black in the HPC who argues that JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, has become a rich man due to his merit. I attempted to point out several instances of Mr. Dimon’s bank participating in market rigging, fraud, and corruption in order to boost their bottom line, but none of the posts got past the censors.
The conclusion I have reached is that these two sites work to direct the online conversation, especially when certain assumptions are challenged. To be fair to CBC, often my comments are disabled due to me adding my signature (website address) to the bottom; when I resubmit without the website, the comment is usually posted. However, there is absoluetly no consistency here as many of my comments with my website address are posted. And, every once in a while one does not get posted regardless of the presence or not of my website address.
Bernays himself states the following in the book: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” [An interesting sidebar to Bernays is that he worked with the American government to control the narrative of at least one government coup organised by the CIA: Guatemala (1957), where he worked with E. Howard Hunt a CIA operative associated with both the Kennedy assassination (eerily similar to the Guatamalan assassination) and Watergate.]
As Alex Jones’s website, InfoWars.com, suggests, there is a war on for your mind, and the corporate media is a large part of the propaganda campaign waged by the elite. Challenging biases, prejudices, assumptions, facts, opinions, etc. is important if we are to better understand the world and its complex isues. Disallowing such challenges through censorship serves only the status quo. As Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed states in his introduction to Censored 2013: Dispatches From the Media Revolution, it is important “to uncover and showcase news stories, in the public interest, that have been ignored, misreported, or simply censored by the so-called ‘mainstream,’ but more accurately, the corporate media.” It seems it will only be through independent media and bloggers that people will gain a broader perspective of world events and narratives. It will not be through the elite and their corporate media.
Why is this so? I defer to Murray Rothbard in his essay, Anatomy of the State: “…the State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of force and violence in a given territorial area….[it] provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parastic caste in society…[and] the majority must be persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise, and, at least, inevitable…ideological support being vital to the State, it must unceasingly try to impress the public with ‘legitimacy,’ to distinguish its activities from those of mere brigands.” (emphasis added)